The biggest buzzword in Silicon Valley these days? AI, or artificial intelligence.
The nascent technology is taking off in a big way. Big corporations including Amazon (AMZN) and Facebook (FB) are using AI to significantly improve the user experience, while countless early-stage startups are working on AI-based services to transform areas like agriculture and healthcare.
That’s a big boon for Nvidia (NVDA), Yahoo Finance’s Company of the Year in 2016. The Santa Clara, Calif.-based business, which has seen its stock price triple over the last 12 months, makes the data-crunching parts necessary to process complex AI algorithms.
“People have a lot of views of what AI is and how it shows up in your daily life,” Nvidia Vice President of Marketing Greg Estes told Yahoo Finance at the company’s annual GPU Technology Conference last week. “But it’s really sort of the modern way to create new applications and to do new things. It’s about allowing the computer to learn on its own without having to program every single line of code for all possibilities. The computer learns for itself.”
Indeed, it’s because of AI that newer developments like self-driving cars are possible. Toyota (TM), for instance, joined the ranks of Mercedes-Benz and Audi last week when it announced it would use Nvidia components in its autonomous driving systems for cars by 2020.
Another AI-powered project, Horus, is tackling an entirely different space with a wearable device for the blind and visually impaired due out later this year. Horus employs AI to analyze data captured by cameras and other sensors to give blind and visually impaired people audio instructions on-the-fly for navigating their surroundings more easily.
“We’re almost taking it [AI] for granted now,” Estes said. “You’re not necessarily thinking you’re engaging with artificial intelligence if you’re engaging with Siri or you’re talking to Alexa. Just how things have moved from five years ago, where you first started to see the research come out on AI to now, where it’s showing up in your kitchen.”
All those innovations, however, could come at a steep price. In January 2016, the World Economic Forum released a report predicting AI, machine learning, and other nascent technologies will spur a so-called “Fourth Industrial Revolution” that replaces 5.1 million jobs by 2020. According to the report, jobs across every industry and every geographical region in 15 of the world’s largest economies — Australia, Brazil, China, Japan, the UK and the US, among others — will be affected.
“I don’t think you’re going to see taking somebody who has a job where you’re pulling them off a tractor and turning them into a data scientist overnight,” he explained. “But just like the industrial revolution or any revolution like that, you’re going to see a transfer of jobs in one area to a transfer of jobs in another.”
Making the transition a successful one, however, means businesses and institutions must play an active role in helping displaced workers find new careers, Estes added.
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